(Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire)
Coming into the third week of the Fantasy Football season, you’ll encounter three different types of owners; 1) The 2-0 team looking to cement their spot near the top of the league, 2) the 1-1 team working to nudge their team into the upper echelon of the league, and 3) the 0-2 team trying to figure out how to remove themselves from their current disadvantaged position. The thing to note here is that all three teams are looking to make moves, and all for different reasons. The 2-0 team might be riding high on the back of unsustainable performances, while the 0-2 team is feeling the burn of variance and is playing well, but is running into that aforementioned group of 2-0 teams. In any case, each teams’ motivation for making a trade are varied, so it behooves you to try and understand what got a team into its current spot and to craft offers based on that.
No matter how you got to the record you have, there are several good habits you should cultivate to make yourself a better trade partner. These habits require some time commitment, but the benefit is that you will almost certainly see more positive interactions in your trade talks than if you have a one-size-fits-all style of trade negotiations.
The first habit is roster review. Technically, this should be the first two habits, since you will need to review your own roster and the rosters of all of your league-mates. When reviewing your roster, there is a set of questions you should be asking yourself (this list is in no way exhaustive, but it is a start).
- How do you, as an individual, rate each player on your team?
- For instance, the Joe Mixon owner has an asset right now that is both valuable and a liability. Most trade charts you’ll see out in the open (CBS, Fantasy Pros, ESPN, etc.) would have Mixon somewhere within the top-40 of all players. However, if you are someone who is all-in on Mixon (like several fantasy pundits), you might see Mixon as a top-20 player, even with the injury. That discrepancy is something you have to be aware of going into negotiations, since you’ll likely have conversations that undervalue Mixon in your eyes, despite that being where the industry as a whole has him. Authors aside: Joe Mixon is the RB that will win you your league this year.
- What are the strengths of your team? (Both in pre-draft ranks (this early in the season) and in actual performance)
- What are the weaknesses of your team?
- Which players are you trying to build around?
- This might be the most valuable question. If you are in a redraft league, no player on your team should be considered a blanket no-trade type of piece. However, each league is different and you should know who on your team is who you want to build around and what their value is. Those players should be the ones you don’t consider in your trade proposals until you are deep in negotiations and you think you will bolster your team enough elsewhere to make up for your core strengths. If you are in a deep league and have two top-15 RB, you are at a distinct strategic advantage against the rest of the league at running back and you should look to maintain that advantage.
The above 4 questions should be answered for each other team in your league (from your perspective). Going into any trade discussions, you should have an idea about what personnel groupings your league-mate might be willing to deal from, deal for, consider premium, etc. so that you can talk to those points when making an offer. Best yet, if you see something in your conversations that is indicative that your competitor has a lower opinion on a player you really like, you could come out ahead while actually trading to parity.
Roster review should be done at least twice a week, once immediately after the Monday games are through and you know what the standings are going come Tuesday and once immediately after waivers or FAAB run for the first time in the given week. Making offers before waivers can have a distinct effect on how waivers will go, as you might be able to address a teams weakness better than what is on the wire, while still gaining more benefit for yourself. That could also lead to players being available to you on waivers that may not have been had you and your friend been looking to pick up the same position. After waivers have run, you’ll have a much better idea of what the other teams were looking for (identifying what they think their shortcomings were) and what pieces they may value differently than you (if they drop one of your favorite lottery tickets, for instance). In either case, you need to be ready to deal at all times during the week.
The second habit is to always look for trade matches. After going through the process of considering the make-up of every team in the league, you should know where you are weakest and where other teams are strongest. You should also know if you have a strength that aligns with another teams weakness, and goodness willing, you are strong where one team is weak and they are also strong where you are weak. In the cases where there isn’t a 1:1 match between teams, don’t be shy about engaging multiple owners for deals towards the end of a three-way trade. There is a good chance that you could align trades between two other owners just by virtue of completing your own assessment of the league.
The third habit is to know your byes. Don’t make deals that put more than 50% of your starters on bye the same week unless you are willing to sacrifice a week. On the flip-side, be willing to sacrifice a week if you are 1-1 or better and the deal would give you a distinct advantage all other weeks.
The fourth habit is creating a narrative. You’ve consumed a lot of information over the course of the week, just based on roster construction alone. Before you make an offer, put together a convincing argument for the other owner that demonstrates that you put together the offer with care and consideration for their position. Research snap counts, targets, and touches and use that information to make your players look better (or their players look worse, or all players being comparable). Be willing to parrot what coaches and pundits are saying about players. Provide insight into players that may be dropped in an unbalanced trade to show that you understand that no unbalanced deal is standalone. The extra care you take in putting together the narrative should help you provide transparency into your process so that the other team doesn’t feel like they are being taken advantage of.
A little bit (ok, maybe a lot) of work upfront will make trade negotiations easier and more productive. Be willing to put in the effort where you can to make the experience good for all parties. A well-researched trade negotiation tends to pay back at that moment, and again in the future, as owners will pursue you for trades because they understand you are willing to put in the legwork. In my experience, stalled trades may even reappear when circumstances change as a result, just because of all of the considerate conversation that has already taken place.
Applying Those Habits
I’m trying to get Mark Ingram in my redraft league to improve my RB depth. My current running backs are David Johnson, Lamar Miller, and trash behind that. My wide receivers are DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, and Allen Robinson. The league is 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 Flex.
The current offer from the Ingram owner is Mark Ingram for Mike Evans.
Right off the bat, we’re missing some key pieces of information, mainly a clear picture of the teams’ strengths (because only starters have been named), and any information about the other team beyond their ownership of Mark Ingram. In order to resolve that information gap, I asked the questioner four things:
- What does the rest of your roster look like?
- What does the rest of the Ingram owners roster look like?
- Who are the best Flex options on the waiver wire?
- How many teams are in the league?
The rosters were as follows:
|Position||Evans Owner||Ingram Owner|
|QB||Phillip Rivers||Deshaun Watson|
|RB||David Johnson||Todd Gurley II|
|RB||Lamar Miller||Ezekial Elliot|
|WR||DeAndre Hopkins||Sammy Watkins|
|WR||Mike Evans||Pierre Garcon|
|Flex||Allen Robinson||Devin Funchess|
|TE||Jack Doyle||Jesse James|
|BN||Duke Johnson Jr.||David Njoku|
|BN||Jamison Crowder||Austin Ekeler|
|BN||Geronimo Allison||Corey Davis|
|BN||Derrick Henry||Doug Baldwin|
|BN||Jordan Wilkins||Mark Ingram|
|BN||Tyler Boyd||Antonio Callaway|
On the waiver wire, you’d see names like C.J. Anderson, Ty Montgomery, Robby Anderson, Kelvin Benjamin, etc.
With all of that detail in mind, my first thought is that Evans for Ingram is an overpay, but not by a lot. Allen Robinson would be an underpay, also not by a lot. So maybe there is a 2-1 out there that balances the books and improves both teams.
My first suggestion was to try and make the trade Mike Evans for Mark Ingram and Corey Davis. Based on Funchess being in the lineup, it could be deduced that the other owner values him lower than the industry. Corey Davis is talented enough to make up for the lost production from Mike Evans. Based on the roster and waiver wire, the other owner is stuck on WR and Evans would be huge for them. Narrative-wise, the injury to Marcus Mariota can be seen as both a detriment and a future boon to the current and future value of Davis.
It turns out that the other owner had a similar feeling on Corey Davis that I do, and thought that was too much. They considered the deal and were willing to discuss any other WR on the roster, to which my eyes are drawn to Doug Baldwin. The extent of Baldwin’s injury is a Grade-2 MCL strain, which is typically given a 4-6 week timetable. Pete Carroll is already talking about Baldwin being close to returning to practice, which would put him at the best end of that range. It wouldn’t help now but would be great during byes and the waning weeks of the season. This line carries far more risk, but the reward could be substantial, especially since Baldwin might be a better player than Evans.
In my opinion, the Seahawks offense is rough because Doug Baldwin isn’t on the field. Baldwin offers Russell Wilson one thing no one else does, the ability to separate in short yardage and down the field, while still having good hands. Tyler Lockett is growing, but he still is a liability in short yardage (which isn’t good when Wilson is under siege each play thanks to their line). Brandon Marshall is a big threat who really can’t separate anymore but can jump for the ball against anyone. Will Dissly is a TE with very little experience that will eventually see coverage if he keeps producing. When Baldwin is on the field, defenses will actually have to respect his ability to be open for Wilson at all points on the field, which should create openings for the running game and reduce the pressure on the line. Wilson may be the best player on the Seahawks, but Baldwin is the piece that makes that offense go.
By targeting Baldwin, there’s a chance that a back-end piece on the roster would need to be included in the deal. Geronimo Allison or Jamison Crowder could very well cut if the trade goes through, so why not include them? If one of those potential cuts could net Corey Davis, even better.
One item to note is that your mileage may vary. I have my own rankings that are bullish on Baldwin (even with the injury) and Davis, and bearish on Mike Evans and the WR1 group as a whole when compared to RB1 and RB2. You might think that Evans is worth more or Davis is worth less, which is perfectly fine. Trades happen when you are higher on someone that someone else is lower on and vice versa. Trades will always end up being influence by how we, as individuals, rank players.